The Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors; a combination most would initially consider as one of the most unlikely, and yet Koei Tecmo, Team Ninja, Omega Force and Nintendo were adamant to prove that it could be done. Announced in late 2013, Team Ninja first proposed the idea of a Warriors styled cross-franchise game to Nintendo. After presenting it to one of the Legend of Zelda's most prominent figures, Eiji Aonuma, Nintendo was confident in Koei Tecmo's ability to make the game. In fact, Aonuma ended up being a major supervisor for the game, ensuring that while it is a spin-off of the Legend of Zelda, a considerable amount of care would go into representing the playable characters.
The game is set in Hyrule, though has nothing to do with the canonical Zelda timeline. Long ago, Ganondorf was defeated and his spirit was split into four fragments and scattered across different moments in time, with the final fragment sealed away by the Master Sword. Ganondorf had a plot to resurrect himself by using the sorceress Cia, who once protected the balance of the Triforce. Having become obsessed with Link "“ the spirit of the Hero of Legend, Ganondorf found an opportune moment to purge her soul and twist her state of mind, forcing the Gate of Souls to open. This serves as a portal to different realities of Hyrule, and you are tasked to right the wrongs, seal the portal and hopefully prevent Ganondorf's reawakening. The actual story is light but charming in the same way most Dynasty Warriors games are, but the winner here is using The Gate of Souls to explain the use of levels taken from Ocarina of Time, Skyward Sword, and Twilight Princess. It's great to play the reimagining of some of these classic settings. It really does open the doors to further expansions to the game, as there are loads of settings they have at their disposal. Hilda from A Link Between Worlds has already been revealed as a new character, and I hope they pay homage (in some form) to the Oracle games, or perhaps even Wind Waker in its own unique cel-shaded aesthetic. And who knows, maybe finally we'll see The Groose on the Loose.
Hyrule Warriors lets you play as some of the most memorable characters from the 28 year-old franchise, and Omega Force/Team Ninja have worked hard to cater to the fans. We have Link, Zelda, Shiek, Impa, Midna, Fi, Princess Ruto, Darunia, and of course famous villains like Ganondorf, Ghirahim and Zant. Alongside the familiar characters, there are also new characters established in Hyrule Warriors, such as Lana, Cia, Volga and Wizzro. Each character is completely unique and plays entirely different from one another. To top it all off, each character also has an additional weapon they can use instead of their primary weapon for alternative combos.
The combat system is traditionally, a Warriors game. Light and heavy attacks are stringed together with Y and X, respectively. Dashing and rolling is used with B as opposed to a jump button, and your Musou attack is mapped to the A button. Players can lock onto target enemies with the L button, and guard with ZL. Items are also obtainable as you progress through the campaign, and are classic items used in the series, such as the Boomerang, Bombs, Hookshot, and the Bow. Finally, the R button is something called your focus spirit, and allows you to move faster hit harder, and unleash a more powerful Special Attack when combined with it.
Levels are very much like any Dynasty Warrior game; maps are quite large, and full of thousands of enemies waiting to be hack and slashed in a variety of ways. There are certain objectives that need to be satisfied, and in some cases, there are large bosses taken straight from the lore, like King Dodongo, Gohma, Manhandla or the Imprisoned. They all have specific patterns of attack, and are typically when you get a certain item --- such as Manhandla needing to be stunned with the boomerang, and appears in the level where you get the boomerang) Gold Skulltulas will also appear briefly on the map, hidden within a giant web that flashes on the in game map. You have a short time limit to get to it and will be rewarded with a bonus collectible. You'll know when you're close once the audio disappears and you're left with the famous shuffling sound of the Skulltula.
Of course, this is a Warriors game, and so those unfamiliar with the series, or those who are not fans of the repetitious nature of the gameplay be warned: Hyrule Warriors is no different. The gameplay is very repetitive, and while fans of both franchises may look past that and find sheer enjoyment, those looking for something deeper may need to look elsewhere. Despite the repetition, I've still lost countless hours playing levels, replaying levels, and losing time in the Bazaar.
The Bazaar is a store to level up each character. There are 4 options you may choose from. The Badge Market is an absurdly deep skill tree setting that allows you to increase a character's attack, defense and assist sections. Each section has a whole host of options, allowing you to increase the number of strings in a combo, to upgrading tunics for elemental resistance, to the potency of your items. The Training Dojo is a mode that essentially lets you level up characters you may not pay much attention to by paying Rupees. The Apothecary allows you to create mixtures to use within a battle and can improve the chances of a weapon drop. Each mixture results in a different type of weapon you desire, such as one with a specific element, or one with open slots so that you may fuse it in the final section of the Bazaar "“ the Smithy. As the name implies, you can fuse the specific benefits from a weapon into another weapon you prefer to use. This mode isn't really all that useful, as you're more inclined to find better weapons than ones you create, but to be frank that is entirely up to how much time you are willing to invest in weapon crafting.
There is a decent selection of game modes, starting out with the main storyline featured in Legend Mode. This is where you can unlock the remaining characters within the game, and can also be played in offline splitscreen. Levels will have restrictions to characters you are allowed to use. Free Mode allows players to freely choose any one of the levels and also any of the characters. Adventure mode is a unique mode that allows you to scour its map in search of heart containers, powerful weapons and character power-ups. The mode uses the original 1986 map from the Legend of Zelda, and you are tasked with moving square by square, each square has a different challenge, and some offer great rewards. This is very similar to Dynasty Warrior's Conquest mode.
As previously mentioned, the game can play with up to two people via splitscreen, and is done through the use of the gamepad. Player 2 will have use of the entire television, while Player 1 will use the screen on the gamepad. Some may consider this a disadvantage and may prefer a splitscreen on the television; however this method allows a number of things. For starters, the native aspect ratio remains intact, and more importantly, it preserves the framerate of the gameplay. Most will know that framerates will undoubtedly stutter in these types of games and it makes sense. You're playing quite literally against hundreds of enemies on screen. Dividing the game on the same screen will increase the chances of frame drops as you're seeing the same amount of enemies, only twice. This way, the gamepad allows for a seamless display on a second screen. Unfortunately, there is no online mode whatsoever, and it really does feel like a missed opportunity for cooperative play.
The visuals for this game are quite good. Keeping in mind that this is a Warriors game, and realizing what it accomplishes on screen at any moment, the main characters are nicely detailed, and some of the larger or more important enemies look great. The grunts are essentially copy/pasted and have generic patterns of attack, and essentially needed to give off a grandiose army you're battling against. It's not going to win any beauty pageants but for what it's worth it is quite possibly the best looking Warriors-styled game to date.
Hyrule Warriors comes very highly recommended. It's a fantastic spin-off of a classic franchise, and Team Ninja and Omega Force took a lot of care into creating a title that may appeal to newcomers or fans of the Legend of Zelda. Despite some missed opportunities regarding online or typical gripes some may have with the niche series' infamous repetitiveness, Hyrule Warriors delivers solid gameplay, plenty of modes to lose yourself in, and a wealth of upgradable options. I look forward to seeing what they have planned for future downloadable content, as this looks to be a game I'll return to.
|Great use of the series's mythology.|
|Adventure Mode is a great homage to the original Legend of Zelda.|
|Splitscreen allows for couch co-op without severely dropping in framerate.|
|Yes, itâ€™s a Warriors game. No, itâ€™s not any less repetitive.|
|The Smithy feels underdeveloped.|
|No online co-op mode is a bummer.|